Saturday, November 30, 2013

Begin the Week with Words

(Yes, an hour or so earlier than actual Sunday...figured I'd sneak it in while I was thinking of it!)


"I can turn to that day as though it were a page in a book. It’s written so deeply upon my mind I can almost taste the ink.” 

Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent

This book is full of great quotes. My full review will post Monday 12/2.

Monday, November 25, 2013

We Are Water

My very own signed copy!

I consider Wally Lamb "my" author. I discovered him on my own in my college bookstore in the late 90s. No one had recommended him to me and I'd never heard of him before. So, as I've read his books over the years, I've relished in the fact that he is "mine." (Same with Jodi Picoult! I was reading her before she became crazy popular!)

So picking up We Are Water was a given. And picking up a signed copy from Barnes and Noble was a no-brainer. I never read my signed copies. I wait to get another copy or borrow it from the library. This was an exception...I didn't want to wait.

The best way to describe We Are Water is to think of the domino effect. It's a story of the way in which people's past, experiences, faults, and personalities trickle down to others, causing a domino effect in the lives of all involved. 

Annie Oh, wife of workaholic psychologist Orion Oh and mother of three, finds herself mysteriously drawn to art, as well as having a knack for it herself. Through the narration of multiple narrators, we see Annie's attention consumed by her art, which becomes the venue for releasing pent up anger over her horrid, untold childhood. Her art takes her to the top. But at what cost? Has it solved her anger issues? And what has her intense focus on it done to her children? If you let it, the past can eat you alive.

Although a number of characters narrate, including the entire Oh family, and other characters have pieces of their stories included, I'd argue that Annie is the main character. Most of the other characters' stories connect back to, are a result of, or are the cause of Annie's story, which is always an applaudable feat for any author. So thank you Wally Lamb for another good story.

Which authors do you claim for your own?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Begin the Week with Words

"I imagine, then, that we are all candle flames, greasy-bright, fluttering in the darkness and the howl of the wind....They will blow us all out, one by one, until it is only their own light by which they see themselves."

Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent

Who can resist opening lines like these?! Have a good week! And may the right words come to you at the right time :)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Catching Fire

I saw Catching Fire tonight with two other Hunger Games fan friends. In case you haven't heard of this one yet, Catching Fire is the second book of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. This time last year we welcomed The Hunger Games to the big screen and tonight, Catching Fire.

Actually, it was a double feature, so we saw Hunger Games first/again. Armed with some sweets and a gallon of pop (really, I'm not sure how many ounces that cup they gave me was), we settled in to watch.

Now, all three of us have read the books, so we knew the main concept, who would make it to the end, etc. But there's always a nervousness about what "the movie people" might do to your beloved book. And there's the "Oh, I forgot about that" parts. (I've read about 300 books since I read Catching Fire, so give me a break here people!) As we watched we whispered the "Oh I forgot about this" and "This is the sad part" back and forth. There was whispered commentary on the various characters, including many new ones since the first book/movie. Caesar more hilarious than before, Cinna still amazing, and Effie just as oblivious, although that human side begins to shine through.

As a matter of fact, there was definitely more human side shining throughout the whole movie. Action packed and a cause for as many laughs as cringes and worried looks, the viewer gets a better look at each character and his/her dedication to a higher cause. As the plot thickens, the audience finds themselves in the beginning stages of a revolution. Revolution on the screen translates as: dark looks; sarcastic, snide, and/or cocky remarks; wry smiles; brave standings that give you chills; complicated relationships; tears; and an ongoing foiling of President Snow's plan. What made me like Catching Fire was the step-by-step uniting of the people across the districts, including the Capitol's citizens. You could see the sparks fly as they moved into revolution mode.

And now we wait. Mockingjay, the third book in the trilogy, will be broken into two movies, the better to torture us fans with. Although, if the splitting of Breaking Dawn and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows are any indication of how awesome a split final book can be, then it will be worth the wait. The two-part conclusion of Mockingjay is set for release on November 21, 2014 and November 20, 2015. I will be there!

Any other Hunger Games fans out there? 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Travel and Books

Over at, there is a team of travel enthusiasts who wanted to take readers on a great cross-country journey. So, they drew up their own literary road trip as inspired by 9 great American classics. Check out the links below each commentary for a post with travel information. I am reposting the original article with their permission. Feel free to check out the post (and their blog) here:

Zerve Book Club: A Great American Road Trip With The Great American Novels

We’ve shown you how you can visit the Wizard of Oz, explore Manhattan like Percy Jackson and how to eat, pray and love without a passport. For our final installment of the 2013 Zerve Book Club, we’d like to take you on a great American cross-country road trip with the Great American Novel (or several of them, in this case). Inspired by Business Insider’s profile of The Most Famous Book Set In Every State, we drew up a literary road map.

1. Massachusetts: Walden by Henry David Thoreau

via Yale University Press
Walden follows Thoreau’s two-year exercise in isolation, living simply and self-reliance as means to gaining a more objective understanding of society. We’re not suggesting you trade in your iPhone for a Spartan lifestyle in the woods, but taking a little time to unplug and immerse yourself in nature might not be a bad idea in our screen-obsessed culture.

2. New York: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The decadence and idealism of the 1920s are encapsulated in Fitzgerald’s tale of an enigmatic young millionaire, Jay Gatsby, and his unrelenting quest to rekindle his lost love with Daisy Buchanan. Narrator and friend Nick Carraway is simultaneously captivated and repulsed by Gatsby’s extravagant and underhanded world in this scathing portrait of the Jazz Age. Follow in Gatsby’s gilded footsteps and see how the other half lives, if only for a day.

3. Pennsylvania: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Susie Salmon leads the life of a typical suburban teenager until she becomes the victim of a terrible crime. Part drama, part murder-mystery, The Lovely Bones is narrated from Susie’s point of view after her death as she watches her family’s struggle to come to terms with the tragedy and solve the case. Those interested in a good “whodunit” or the connection between our world and the afterlife might enjoy exploring those elements of the book through an intriguing ghost tour or solving a mystery of their own!

4. Georgia: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

via Wikipedia
Gone With the Wind gave the country one of its most epic love stories in the star-crossed romance of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler. The story follows Scarlett’s journey from spoiled plantation owner’s daughter to a cunning survivor of the Civil War and its aftermath. Maybe you can’t visit Tara, but you can certainly get swept up in the grandeur of her world while exploring antebellum homes.

5. Florida: To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway

Make like Captain Harry Morgan (minus the whole illegal contraband thing) and test out your sea legs on a fishing charter. The salty sea air and thrill of the catch will have you feeling like you’re right in the middle of Hemingway’s adventurous classic.

6. Louisiana: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Louis, an embittered and suicidal young plantation owner, meets the mysterious and deadly vampire, Lestat, who bestows the same immortal gifts on him. The two men become companions and form a vampiric family with a young, orphaned girl in this gothic tale of death, deception and revenge. New Orleans is no stranger to a connection with the macabre; discover the chilling underbelly of the Big Easy.

7. Texas: No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

A new take on the classic Western, No Country for Old Men follows three men whose lives are interwoven by a drug deal gone bad on the border between Texas and Mexico. Get the lay of the land in the Lone Star State the way it was meant to be seen, on horseback.

8. Arizona: The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

Taylor hopes to escape small-town life and start over in Tucson, but that plan is upended when a stranger leaves a Native American child with a tragic past in her care. It seems fitting that this tale of life thriving in the face of a desolate situation should be mirrored in the desert setting of Arizona.

9. California: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

via Wikipedia
When readers think of Steinbeck, California is one of the first things to come to mind. His ambitious novel, East of Eden, is no exception: two California families, the Hamiltons and the Trasks, spend generations suffering the same fates of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel. Steinbeck wanted his novel to serve as the sights, sounds, smells and colors of Salinas for his two young sons. Discover the town that captured his heart and imagination.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Begin the Week with Words

"Sometimes we want something to be true so badly that we convince ourselves that it is true."

We Are Water, by Wally Lamb

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Memoir x 2

I love memoirs. The more I read them, the more I've noticed there are different ways in which people write a memoir. Recently, I read two memoirs whose titles I've heard floating around often: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling and Paris in Love by Eloisa James. To be honest, I picked them up because a friend had copies she was willing to share, so why not? During these readings, I've also come to realize that timing affects the reading of a memoir too.

I read Kaling's book first. Although I didn't recognize the author right away (no, I don't watch The Office), the title was catchy (who hasn't felt like others are hanging out without them?). I soon fond out Kaling was both an actress and writer on The Office and feared it would effect my reading because I'm unfamiliar with the show for the most part. However, this wasn't the case. Kaling talks about many childhood events and her opinion on a variety of topics. Even the parts about The Office were funny to me because by the time I reached that section of the book, I was familiar with Kaling's voice and writing. I could imagine her actions and tone of voice and still get a kick out of what she described. I think Kaling's sense of humor seeping through the book is what made it most enjoyable. It is hard to find a writer with voice sometimes and as a writing teacher, it is hard to do, explain, and teach, so I'm always happy to see it.

Paris in Love was not as great an experience, but this really may have just been me. The book covers the year that author Eloisa James lived in Paris with her husband and two kids. The adventure predicates her survival of breast cancer and the need to appreciate life more. The book is written in chapters, each chapter opening with a longer essay on a topic. Following the essay is a series of journal-like/FB status type observations. They are literally snapshots of James's time in Paris (I believe much of it is actually a collation of her FB statuses over the year).

Story wise, it didn't move for me and I couldn't get into the reading at any point. I think it's partially because I prefer full fledged stories, whereas this one was pieced together throughout the course of the memoir. Also, I had started reading it when there were many things going on and I feel I was somewhat distracted. However, I can say that I did enjoy this author's use of literary elements - especially metaphor and simile. She painted great pictures in my mind at times. And I have to say she made me dream a bit. What would it be like to up and move somewhere so different than your home? To have the freedom to just explore and learn the area? I don't know that I'm brave enough to ever do what she did (I commuted to college!), but it makes for a nice daydream.

Have you ever traveled far away long term?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Begin the Week with Words

“My date brought me a bouquet of nearly dead roses. I had to cradle them in the crook of my elbow, but their heads kept slipping off my arm like a drunken woman being carried to bed" (pg 105).

                                               Paris in Love, by Eloisa James

Monday, November 4, 2013

The World's Strongest Librarian


I'm a fan of memoirs. It is always so amazing to hear about the things people endure and overcome. So I rarely hesitate to read a memoir that has multiple recommendations. The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne most definitely fits the bill. 

There are a number of interesting pieces Hanagarne talks about. For example, he grew up in the Mormon Church. Throughout the memoir he shares the tenets of the Mormon faith, honestly speaking to the part faith has played in his life both in the past and present. Aside from his faith, his physical attributes also play a big part in his memoir.

At 6'7" tall, Hanagarne stands out, to say the least. However, it's not always his height that draws people's attention first. It may be the sudden contortion of his arms, rapid blinking, or guttural noises, none of which he can control. Josh Hanagarne has Tourette Syndrome. Tourette's is a disorder that is neither fully understood nor truly treatable. Hanagarne gives the most amazing insight into life with Tourette's, from his first symptoms to what seemed like control and then relapse. 

Hanagarne's fight with Tourette's dominated his life for many years, driving him from college after college and job after job. Exercise - lifting and various other trainings -  leads him to understand what enrages his tics. Armed with this knowledge, Hanagarne challenges himself to take control and applies for a job in the local library. And so the world's strongest librarian's life takes flight.

Absolutely inspirational and humorous, Hanagarne has written a memoir you will enjoy. What are some of the amazing challenges you have read about in memoirs?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Begin the Week with Words


Today's little paragraph comes from Paris in Love, by Eloisa James. (Memoir)

"I never did learn how to live in the moment, but I did learn that moments could be wasted and the world would continue to spin on its axis. It was a glorious lesson" (pg 12).

Have a good week! And may the right words come to you at the right time :)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Stuck With Books

Well, it's 5:30am and I've been up for an hour already. The gerbils in the cage in the living room were making a racket that sounded as if they had finally chewed through the metal cage and I'm a light sleeper. I slid out of bed to check it out and slowly crumpled to my knees because I couldn't stand. 

The back of my left foot has been hurting since Tuesday night. Fine all day, came home, took a 30 minute nap, and when I got up, pain. Bearable and even walkable after a few steps, but unmistakably there. This exact feeling had happened to my right foot four or so years ago and I had been told to wear an air cast and not overdo it. I had stopped walking so much before making it into the doctor that it had healed mostly and they could only guess that it was likely a tear starting in my Achilles' tendon. I didn't miss any work and healed up easily and quickly. So Tuesday night I put on the air cast and went about life. What I didn't take into account is that my classroom is upstairs now and my kids and I are all much more active (as in places to go and people to see) than we were even four years ago. Even at school, I have duties that take me up and down the stairs more than once. (There is book talk coming up here, I promise.)

So, getting home this evening I found my ankle so swollen and discolored I immediately called the doctor, but couldn't get an appointment until Monday. I put ice packs on it, swelling stayed. When I got up around 8:45pm and my strong foot hurt, I knew there was no way I could get to work tomorrow...err, today. (Luckily, I have an amazing student teacher right now, so my classes will be fine.)

So, getting up to see what the rodent ruckus was about, I found myself on the floor. Fine, I'll crawl. My husband has a huge day ahead of him today and I didn't want to wake him up. I made it in there crawling, but not without pain. From holding my feet at certain angles, holding still, and limping about, my knees are stiff. They pop, crack, and ache when I stretch my legs out. And here I thought I was doing a great job limping around.

So regardless of whether I can get the doctor to squeeze me in tomorrow, I'm stuck in bed. Literally, my husband is going to pile food and drinks around me and I'm stuck. Ahhh, my fellow bibliophiles know where this is headed now. Besides sending my students' grades in, I'll be reading...well possibly napping too, after sleeping for only a few hours. I'm in the middle of both The World's Strongest Librarian and Paris in Love. I have a feeling they'll be done tomorrow...umm, today, which bodes well for November reading I suppose. But I'd really like to be able to walk. It's kinda handy.

Oh and just to throw it in here, I hit my Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge of 60 books! I was going to up it, but I think I'll just keep going so people can see that I didn't just make it, I smashed it! And on that note, it's 6am. My family will be getting up and ready in about 20 minutes...maybe someone will help me to the bathroom before they go?!